Communities Unhappy With Dry Toilet Project

GOVERNMENT’S plan to construct over 6 500 dry pit-latrine toilets across the country has been greeted with little appreciation from rural community members who stand to benefit, calling the system inferior.

The construction of the toilets is expected to cost the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry over N$200 million, targeting about 500 toilets per region.

The project, which started in 2009, is part of the National Sanitation Strategy, run by the Directorate of Water Supply and Sanitation Coordination in the agriculture ministry.

So far, more than 1 000 dry pit toilets have been constructed in Omusati, Ohangwena, Oshana and Kunene regions, with 13 tenders awarded.

Some Okakarara community members complained of the unhealthy conditions that come with the construction of dry pit toilets.

Several people from Coblenz and Okondjatu villages said the toilets raise a stench, especially during sunny weather and when it rains, the faeces are washed to the outside.

“We only have a few of these dry pit toilets and as much as they are helpful, we are challenged when it comes to their maintenance. People just go on the floor, or on the pot itself.

At the end of the day, the toilet is filled with faeces,” said Undjee Usora.

Another community members shared similar sentiments saying, open defecation is more viable to them because the toilets are worse.

“We just go to the field when the need arises. And it is not safe for us, especially for the old men in the area. One of them is blind and keeps getting lost when he goes alone,” said Maria Syster.

But the agriculture ministry says the dry toilet system is the only option, since the majority of rural communities do not have running water. Systems utilising water require a large capital investment and can cost up to N$30 000 to N$80 000 per household compared to N$3 000 to N$8 000 per household for dry sanitation facilities.

The ministry says that access to improved sanitation and hygiene services still remains a challenge in Namibia, with 49% of households estimated to have no access to toilet facilities.

“The situation is worse in rural areas where an estimate of three out of every four households have no toilet facilities, presumably practising open defecation. The situation is equally bad in most informal settlements,” said the agriculture ministry spokesperson, Margaret Kalo.

Kalo said poor hygiene practices have resulted in water-related diseases, red flag indicators being the recent cholera outbreak in Kunene, Ohangwena and Windhoek.

“This is evidence of people engaging in highly risky hygiene practices,” she said, adding that there is a realisation that provision of water, sanitation and hygiene hardware facilities without the behavioural change on hygiene, operations and maintenance will not necessarily solve sanitation challenges.

According to Kalo, the ministry is rolling out an information campaign to educate communities about good hygiene practices, and that the construction of ventilated improved double pit sanitation facilities with movable superstructures for the 340 households affected by cholera in and around the Etanga area of Epupa constituency in the Kunene region has started.

“This special project has been designed as a response to the cholera outbreak and was discussed with community members during the awareness raising campaign on the impact of open defecation and the importance of practicing best hygiene behaviour. The cost involved is about N$10 million,” the director of rural water supply and sanitation, Leopold Niipare, said.

Community members in Windhoek’s informal settlements such as Havana and Okahandaja Park also raised concerns over the smell emanating from the dry toilets, especially once the drums are full.

The Municipality of Windhoek implemented a pilot project to construct Otji toilet dry systems for over 40 communities in the informal settlements a few years ago.

Town planner in the department of community services and sustainable development division, Narikutuke Naruses, said that they decided to implement the Otji toilet dry system since some settlements are not within the drainage geographical area.

The municipality reported that the first concept in Okahandja Park did not work as community members still had the wrong mindset about the dry toilet system.

During his visit to Namibia in April this year, international toilet and sanitation expert Kamal Kar, after interacting with various communities using the system, indicated that the dry toilet system may not be the best option for rural communities.

Kar said that there was a need to explore other options that might be more suited for informal and rural communities, such as Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS), which is based on the belief that simply providing toilets does not guarantee their use, or result in improved sanitation and hygiene, unless coupled with good hygienic practices in respect of hygiene.

“Communities with flushing toilets seem to be more functional compared to those with dry toilet systems,” Kar said during his observations at Okahandja Park and Havanna settlements. He said although the initiative by government to improve the community’s living conditions in terms of sanitation is good, there was need to involve the community in the decision-making process.

“The dry toilet system does not function well for a number of reasons, especially the smell. Dry toilet systems are only sustainable in that they save water,” he said.

Kar said a fast developing country like Namibia should not have a problem with defecation, as is the case now.

Source : The Namibian